Posts Tagged ‘competitors’

by Richard Martin

© Kheng Guan Toh

I’ve been answering questions lately (from my daughters, among others) about the threat of war, specifically nuclear war. This obviously comes from the worries about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and intentions, as well as American ones.

Although this concerns military strategy and geopolitics, the underlying analytical approach can be applied to any consideration of threats, whether a generic SWOT analysis, or the evaluation of a specific security or competitive menace.

Threat analysis goes beyond risk analysis. Risk is the product of the probability and impact of a negative event or cause. Risks are usually categorized under three headings: natural, technological, and human. Focusing on the last, there are criminality, security, labour conflict and many other sub-categories of human originated risks. The problem, however, comes in evaluating the likelihood of a human risk. If we are considering only generic risks, we can talk about probability and impact in abstract terms. For instance, what is the probability of a criminal act? We can use statistics about, say, white collar crime in corporate settings as a starting point for assessing the risk. There are statistics describing the probability of certain acts in certain situations along with average impacts (including their statistical distribution).

But how can we assess a specific threat where there is no historical or statistical data to illuminate the analysis? That’s where military-style threat analysis can be very useful. Military threats are broken into two parts: capability and intent. Capability is self-explanatory: What can the potential or actual enemy do? What are the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of his forces? How many tanks can he deploy? How many aircraft? In the case of North Korea, how many nuclear bombs, of what type, and through what means can they be delivered? I discussed this at length in early September with Dr. Sean Maloney of RMC, an expert on nuclear history and strategy.

While there is uncertainty in capability assessment, at least we’re dealing with tangible realities. Intent is a completely different ballgame. How do we know what the enemy will do? How will he react to our own threats or efforts at conflict resolution? These are imponderables and we must consider a range of scenarios to determine the inevitable commonalities that arise in each, so we can prepare for them. We must also examine the action-reaction cycles that occur because of the moves and countermoves by both sides.

An analogous approach can be used in analyzing and assessing business threats, even though the stakes are obviously of a completely different order and importance. Whether you’re trying to assess your competitors’ next moves, or your market’s reception of your new product, you can learn a lot by considering the threat as both capability and intent. This allows you to disentangle what is possible (given assessed capabilities) from what is probable (given assessed intentions) over a range of scenarios. The insight gained can then be incorporated into your own strategy and contingency planning.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”  Sun Tzu

Step 5: Do a detailed situational estimate

Rational, deliberate decision making and planning nearly always trump intuition, instinct, and automated response patterns. Too often, leaders and managers default to habit and existing reactions when they should be analyzing the situation in detail to determine new threats and opportunities.

When I consult with executives and entrepreneurs, I frequently hear, “But that’s the only way to do it!” Even worse, I often encounter claims that “we’ve always done it that way,” or “that’s not the way we do it here.” The problem is that the habitual pattern works, until it doesn’t. Also, in business you should be looking for the unusual and the novel, not what everyone else “knows” or does.

Whenever I come up against such resistance, I always frame the situation as indicated in the following diagram. To the exclamation that there is only one possible way, I ask what the aim is. Sometimes it’s the actual mission we’ve identified in the mission analysis process. But sometimes it’s something more mundane or inconsequential. Regardless, we need to know what our purpose is and why we are aiming for it.

situational-estimate

Then follows the enumeration and consideration of all the various factors impinging on the decision. I give a full list in Brilliant Manoeuvres (pp. 170-1), but in sum, we must look at competitive, natural, human, temporal, and technological/technical considerations. Moreover, if we’ve maintained situational awareness and conducted a proper reconnaissance, most of that information will now be highly relevant.

From this analysis, we must, I repeat, must, develop several possible courses of action. Simply put, there is always more than one option for how to proceed, and refusal to consider a range of possibilities is irresponsible. So, at this point, the process requires the generation of at least three different options. We then compare them, using the factors and other decision criteria. The optimal course of action, i.e., the best one given the situation and our goals, then becomes the basis for detailed plan development and execution. A big advantage is also that, having considered various scenarios and options, we have also made a start on developing sequel and contingency plans.

However, it’s important to note that part of the comparison of options and decision process are contingent upon their performance against potential scenarios and competitor/opposing courses of action. This is where the “war game” comes into play, but that is actually step 6 in the Business Readiness Process, which I’ll consider in the next newsletter.

Business Readiness Process (BRP)

  1. Ensure vigilance through situational awareness.
  2. Do preliminary assessment of tasks and time.
  3. Activate organization or team.
  4. Conduct reconnaissance.
  5. Do detailed situational estimate.
  6. Conduct wargame and decide on optimal course(s) of action.
  7. Perform risk management and contingency planning.
  8. Communicate plan and issue direction.
  9. Build organizational robustness.
  10. Ensure operational continuity.
  11. Lead and control execution.
  12. Assess performance.
My name is Richard Martin and I’m an expert on applying readiness principles to position companies and leaders to grow and thrive by shaping and exploiting change and opportunity, instead of just passively succumbing to uncertainty and risk.
© 2016 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.

Goal-setting is a buzzword (or is that buzzterm?) that gets bandied about a lot. We’re supposed to set clear goals so everyone is motivated and knows what to aim for.

Forget SMART goals though: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Sometimes the last thing we need is an “achievable” goal, much less a “realistic” one. Most accomplishments–and they needn’t be monumental or earth-shaking in scope–appear unrealistic and unachievable in at least some respects to some people some of the time. The other things are useful, but speed, surprise, and originality can be just as important, if not moreso, especially if you’re in highly competitive situation.

Instead, I propose defining the end state you’re looking to create. This comes from military practice, where a commander clearly communicates what the battlefield or operation will achieve in very concrete terms: for instance, the enemy has withdrawn from objective X and is on the run; our forces have seized objective X and are in a strong position to exploit to line Z 20 km beyond the objective.

This type of goal creates a vision that anyone can relate to. Moreover, it sets the parameters for what is needed to get there. “If this is what the end state looks like, then what do we have to do and by when, with what resources, and in what manner, for that to become the new reality?”

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

In battle the best way to defeat an entrenched enemy is to hit him in his weak spot or, even better, manoeuvre around him completely to make his position untenable (and irrelevant). By the same token, a company can outflank or bypass the competition through innovation and savvy market manoeuving. Here are some questions from Brilliant Manoeuvres to improve your ability to use the indirect approach:

  • Are there customers, segments, or entire markets that are currently inadequately served or ignored by established competitors?
  • Are there existing products and services that could be modified to better meet these needs?
  • Are there components or technologies that could be re-combined or suitably modified to meet these needs?
  • Could you effectively outflank and bypass the competition by exploiting these under-served or ignored needs?
  • What competencies and resources can you bring to bear to exploit these opportunities?
  • What financial, human, technical, marketing, and sales capabilities could you develop or acquire to bypass the competition?
  • Can you keep the risks within acceptable bounds? What means could you use to do so?

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

The best way to defeat an entrenched enemy is to go around him, exposing weaknesses and gaps in the defence, and exploiting them to go beyond his defences in order to threaten his whole position.

  • Are there customers, segments, or entire markets that are currently inadequately served or ignored by established competitors?
  • Are there existing products and services that could be modified to better meet these needs?
  • Are there components or technologies that could be re-combined or suitably modified to meet these needs?
  • Could you effectively outflank and bypass the competition by exploiting these under-served or ignored needs?
  • What competencies and resources can you bring to bear to exploit these opportunities?
  • What financial, human, technical, marketing, and sales capabilities could you develop or acquire to bypass the competition?
  • Can you keep the risks within acceptable bounds? What means could you use to do so?

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

  • What are your expansion or sustainment plans? Do you have sufficient financial, production, logistical, and operational capability to exploit opportunities? How can you free up such resources? Have you empowered your managers to seek out and exploit these opportunities? Have you given them the tools and resources to do so?
  • Have you developed contingency plans and capabilities to press an initial advantage, whether offensively or defensively? Do you have resources and capabilities on standby, or can you reallocate them from underperforming areas of the company? Are your people empowered to press your advantages so they can turn initial incursions into breakthroughs? Do they have the resources to do so?
  • Do you have the staying power to survive and thrive beyond the initial push into a new product-market segment? Can you sustain the advance and turn tactical and operational victories into strategic ones?

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

  • Do you find yourself continually responding to competitors’ actions or do you instead initiate changes that your competitors must respond to?
  • Do your competitors find you predictable? Is there something you could start doing that would be out of character, but that would put them on the defensive and give you back the initiative?
  • How do you define your mission and business? Is it a narrow view-providing a particular category of product or service-or is it a wider view-searching for ways of fulfilling customer needs at a more general or abstract level? Could you widen the scope of your business by redefining your business and mission?
  • Is it likely that you will still be serving exactly the same customers in the same way in one year, two years, five years, or even ten years? What would have to happen for this situation to remain the same at those time intervals? This will give you an indication of how realistic your forecasts are.
  • Are your decisions today likely to hem you in in the short, medium, or long terms? What can you do to innovate while maintaining your freedom of action in the longer term?
  • How fast can you move to implement new strategies and tactics?

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is a Master Strategist and Leadership Catalyst. Richard brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.